Dundee United moved back into contention for second spot in the Premiership with victory over fellow Europa League contenders Motherwell.

Slack defending handed United a commanding half-time lead through Ryan Dow and Gavin Gunning.

United went three clear when Gunning doubled his tally with a free-kick straight after the break.

Motherwell responded through a John Sutton penalty, but a United win never looked in danger.

Victory saw them narrow the gap to third-placed Motherwell to six points, although United have played one game more.

With Stuart McCall's men threatening to race 12 points clear of their hosts in the race for a Europa League spot, defeat was not an option for the Tangerines.

As United rose to the occasion, Motherwell looked short of ideas and have conceded 11 goals in their last four games.

Sutton went close to opening the scoring early on when he met Keith Lasley's corner at the back post, but after that it was a dominant first half by the home side.

Andrew Robertson and Stuart Armstrong were denied by last-ditch defending after racing into the box, while John Rankin and Nadir Ciftci fired in efforts.

Motherwell's back-line were being asked plenty of questions, but the opening goal arrived all too easily for United when Dow pounced on Shaun Hutchison's poor back-pass and coolly slot the ball beyond the goalkeeper.

Sutton was still proving to be a danger whenever the visitors could bring him into the game and, when he stretched to nod the ball into the path of Iain Vigurs, the summer signing was denied by a fine Radoslaw Cierzniak save.

Back came United and Ciftci skilfully drifted past two black shirts and fired just over.

Minutes later, a clever attacking move pulled Motherwell apart but Armstrong's low shot lacked any real weight and Ciftci could not finish the rebound.

The intense pressure eventually paid dividends when Gunning fired United 2-0 ahead. Ciftci was peeled away from his marker to head low into the path of the United defender, who celebrated his return from injury with an easy finish.

Only a minute into the second half Gunning found himself on a hat-trick, driving in a free-kick that took a favourable deflection off James McFadden beyond Gunnar Nielsen.

Motherwell responded, though, as Sutton's short free-kick found Lionel Ainsworth in space and his low shot tested Cierzniak.

That was followed by a needless Ciftci handball, the Turk leaping in the air and punching McFadden's free-kick - and allowing Sutton to score from the spot.

The hosts lacked the same inventiveness after that, but Gunning and Ciftci wasted opportunities inside the area before Nielson was forced into a double save to thwart Gary Mackay-Steven and Armstrong.

Lineup, Bookings (1) & Substitutions (4)

Dundee United

  • 01 Cierzniak
  • 12 Watson
  • 26 Robertson
  • 08 Rankin
  • 05 Gunning
  • 03 Good
  • 11 Mackay-Steven
  • 06 Paton
  • 21 Ciftci Booked
  • 10 Armstrong (Connolly - 88' )
  • 18 Dow (El Alagui - 78' )

Substitutes

  • 02 Dillon
  • 09 Graham
  • 16 Wilson
  • 25 McCallum
  • 27 Gomis
  • 29 El Alagui
  • 39 Connolly

Motherwell

  • 12 Nielsen
  • 03 Hammell
  • 17 Francis-Angol
  • 14 Lasley
  • 05 Hutchinson
  • 06 McManus
  • 25 Ainsworth (Reid - 67' )
  • 18 Carswell
  • 09 Sutton
  • 07 McFadden
  • 11 Vigurs (Anier - 77' )

Substitutes

  • 01 Hollis
  • 02 Reid
  • 23 Murray
  • 24 Anier
  • 26 Leitch
  • 29 Shirkie
  • 30 Thomas
Ref: Bobby Madden
Att: 7,029

Match Stats

Shots

19 8

On target

8 2

Corners

8 5

Fouls

13 9

Live Text Commentary

Full time

Full Time Match ends, Dundee United 3, Motherwell 1.

90:00 +3:04 Full time

Full Time Second Half ends, Dundee United 3, Motherwell 1.

90:00 +1:40

Foul by Farid El Alagui (Dundee United).

90:00 +1:40

Shaun Hutchinson (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

90:00 +1:05

Farid El Alagui (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

90:00 +1:05

Foul by Shaun Hutchinson (Motherwell).

90:00 +0:05

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Steven Hammell.

88:59

Attempt missed. Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.

87:23 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Dundee United. Aidan Connolly replaces Stuart Armstrong.

86:50

Attempt missed. Henri Anier (Motherwell) header from the centre of the box misses to the right.

83:09

Attempt missed. James McFadden (Motherwell) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.

82:38

Attempt saved. Farid El Alagui (Dundee United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

81:56

Attempt saved. Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

79:59

Steven Hammell (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the right wing.

79:11

Foul by Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United).

78:48

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Steven Hammell.

77:57

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by John Rankin.

77:06 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Dundee United. Farid El Alagui replaces Ryan Dow.

76:53 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Motherwell. Henri Anier replaces Iain Vigurs.

74:44

Attempt missed. Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.

72:41

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Stephen McManus.

71:32

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by John Rankin.

69:26

Ryan Dow (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

69:26

Foul by Stuart Carswell (Motherwell).

68:21

Andrew Robertson (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

68:21

Foul by James McFadden (Motherwell).

66:06 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Motherwell. Craig Reid replaces Lionel Ainsworth.

63:10

Attempt saved. Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

60:46

Foul by John Rankin (Dundee United).

60:46

Steven Hammell (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

59:53

Ryan Dow (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

59:53

Foul by Stuart Carswell (Motherwell).

58:50

Attempt missed. Stuart Armstrong (Dundee United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right.

56:52 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Dundee United 3, Motherwell 1. John Sutton (Motherwell) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.

56:23 Booking

Booking Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) is shown the yellow card.

56:16

Penalty conceded by Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) with a hand ball in the penalty area.

54:14

Foul by John Rankin (Dundee United).

54:14

John Sutton (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

53:03

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Shaun Hutchinson.

52:14

Attempt saved. Lionel Ainsworth (Motherwell) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.

50:43

Foul by Keith Watson (Dundee United).

50:43

James McFadden (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

49:40

Attempt missed. John Rankin (Dundee United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.

49:00

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Iain Vigurs.

48:25

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Steven Hammell.

46:19 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Dundee United 3, Motherwell 0. Gavin Gunning (Dundee United) from a free kick with a left footed shot to the bottom left corner.

45:10

Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

45:10

Foul by Iain Vigurs (Motherwell).

45:00

Second Half begins Dundee United 2, Motherwell 0.

45:00 +1:19 Half time

Half Time First Half ends, Dundee United 2, Motherwell 0.

41:42 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Dundee United 2, Motherwell 0. Gavin Gunning (Dundee United) left footed shot from very close range to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Nadir Ciftci following a corner.

40:41

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Shaun Hutchinson.

40:12

Attempt blocked. Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

39:14

Foul by Ryan Dow (Dundee United).

39:14

Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the left wing.

37:49

Attempt missed. Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left.

37:28

Attempt blocked. John Sutton (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

36:52

Attempt missed. Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the right.

34:28

Foul by Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United).

34:28

Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

33:31

Foul by Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United).

33:31

James McFadden (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

32:37

Attempt missed. Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.

31:50

Foul by Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United).

31:50

Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the left wing.

30:46

Gavin Gunning (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

30:46

Foul by John Sutton (Motherwell).

30:18

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Paul Paton.

29:54

Foul by Paul Paton (Dundee United).

29:54

Keith Lasley (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

29:20

Attempt saved. Gavin Gunning (Dundee United) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.

28:23

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Stephen McManus.

27:42

Paul Paton (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

27:42

Foul by James McFadden (Motherwell).

26:46

Attempt saved. Keith Watson (Dundee United) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

25:49

Attempt blocked. Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

24:49

Attempt missed. Andrew Robertson (Dundee United) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right.

21:28 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Dundee United 1, Motherwell 0. Ryan Dow (Dundee United) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the top left corner.

19:19

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by John Rankin.

18:48

Attempt missed. Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.

12:54

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

12:53

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

12:05

Delay in match John Rankin (Dundee United) because of an injury.

9:18

Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the left wing.

9:18

Foul by Steven Hammell (Motherwell).

8:43

Gavin Gunning (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

8:43

Foul by John Sutton (Motherwell).

7:40

Attempt missed. Andrew Robertson (Dundee United) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right.

4:44

Attempt missed. John Rankin (Dundee United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right.

3:26

Foul by Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United).

3:26

Keith Lasley (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

2:44

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Gavin Gunning.

2:19

Attempt blocked. Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

1:36

Foul by Paul Paton (Dundee United).

1:36

James McFadden (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

0:00

First Half begins.

0:00

Lineups are announced and players are warming up.

Live data and text provided by our data suppliers